New report confirms NM early childhood workers paid poorly

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If you’ve been following the efforts to build early childhood education in New Mexico over the past few years, a recently released report about a statewide needs assessment won’t hold a lot of surprises.

There were the usual issues of low wages and high turnover, poor coordination among early childhood programs, lack of dependable funding and the need for higher-quality programs and greater access across every region of the state. 

The New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership, out of United Way of Santa Fe, is in charge of a planning process for the Early Childhood Education and Care Department, with the mandate to complete a needs assessment and help put together a strategic plan for the new agency. It’s conducted a monthslong trek through the state to gather feedback. 

There were, however, a couple of interesting takeaways. NMID recently published a story on poor wages for early childhood workers and teachers, and a workforce survey produced for the partnership really put some meat on those bones. 

The survey reached 1,290 of New Mexico’s more than 5,000 early childhood workers.

Source: New Mexico Early Childhood Development Partnership

One striking data point from the workforce survey is that a large number of high-level workers in early childhood education make less than $30,000 a year. For instance, 65% of lead teachers and 55% of assistant directors make less than $30,000.  Those percentages rise dramatically — to almost 90% — for teacher aids, caregivers and substitute teachers. Only 37% of center directors and 26% of teachers were happy with their salaries.

The partnership conducted a separate needs assessment process for the state’s tribal communities to see if there were any unique issues they had or wanted addressed. An interesting thing reported was a desire to connect education and health. Less surprising was a lack of decent space for early childhood programs, and one recommendation was for the state to do a “space audit” to identify places that could be repurposed  for early childhood programs. 

“We need basic infrastructure – a new roof, a paved parking lot, new tile floor, a new playground for our children,” one participant told the group.

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